Va. justice to speak at graduation

Published 8:43 pm Thursday, April 7, 2011

By Wendy Harrison
Special to the News-Herald

S. Bernard Goodwyn’s classmates at Southampton High School made an accurate prediction when they voted him “Most Likely to Succeed.”


The 1979 graduate, who is now a justice with the Supreme Court of Virginia, will be the keynote speaker during Paul D. Camp Community College’s 40th Commencement on May 13.

Goodwyn said part of his success is due to the very place where he was raised.

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“Growing up in Southampton County gave me a solid foundation I could use for the rest of my life,” he said. “I aspired to be like the people that were around me.”

At the high school, the Boykins native was valedictorian, president of the student body; president of the sophomore and junior classes; vice president of the senior class; president of the band, where he played tenor sax; captain of the track team; member of the National Honor Society; and sports editor for the school newspaper.

He is probably best remembered, however, as the quarterback and captain during 1977-78 for the Southampton Indians. The “Big Red Machine” won the State Championship in 1976 and 1978.

“We were runners-up in ’77,” Goodwyn recalled. “I was defensive back during my sophomore year and backup quarterback in ’76.”

Goodwyn continued to play football at Harvard University as quarterback during his freshman year, defensive back as a sophomore, and wide receiver in his junior year.

“I quit so I could spend more time running track,” he said. Goodwyn earned some varsity letters as a sprinter during that time as well.

He graduated from Harvard Magna Cum Laude with an A.B. degree in economics in 1983. He was awarded the Harvard College Scholarship, the National Achievement Scholarship, the U.S. Senate Youth Program Scholarship and the Camp Foundation Scholarship.

Goodwyn earned a Juris Doctor in 1986 from the University of Virginia’s School of Law. While in Charlottesville, he was presented the Ritter Award for honor, character and integrity; the G-POP Grant/Patricia Roberts Harris Fellowship; and the National NAACP Scholarship.

In addition, he was a member of Raven Society for leadership and the Black Law Students Association.

He served as a research associate professor of law, appointed to the full-time faculty to conduct research and teach in 1994-’95. He taught federal civil procedure, and Virginia Civil Procedure and Civil Litigation Practice.

Goodwyn was a litigation attorney and partner in a Norfolk firm of 60 lawyers and has been a trial court judge for 12 years.

He is currently a deacon at Galilee Baptist Church in Branchville, a member of the Virginia Bar Association Boyd-Graves Conference; the Chesapeake Chapter of NAACP, Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and Prince Hall Masons. He is a speaker, lecturer or panelist for programs that are sponsored by area colleges and law organizations.

Goodwyn said he wants to tell graduates the power of positive thinking and encouragement.

“I want to tell them to be willing to dream and to realize that they have the ability to do anything they want to do,” he said. “It’s up to them to be bold enough to say, ‘This is where I want to go, and this is what I’ll do to get there.’

Goodwyn is married to Sharon Smith Goodwyn. They have two children, Samuel Jared and Sarah Elizabeth.